MIDDLE EAST NORTH AFRICA

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1 MIDDLE EAST NORTH AFRICA

2 MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA Stretching from Morocco s Atlantic shores to Iran and Yemen s beaches on the Arabian Sea, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region remains central to world affairs. The region encompasses some of the world s most ancient civilizations. Today, however, most of its economies are not free. Both blessed and in some ways cursed by enormous natural oil resources, most of the local populations are characterized by extreme concentrations of wealth and poverty. Most notably, the region continues to be a critical global hot spot for economic, political, and security vulnerabilities. The population-weighted average GDP per capita for the region is approximately $18,803, with monetary stability relatively well maintained. However, in recent years, the MENA region has been suffering from low economic growth and plagued by a high level of unemployment. Since early 2011, many countries in the region have experienced socioeconomic upheaval or outright conflict, and outcomes have MIDDLE EAST/NORTH AFRICA: QUICK FACTS TOTAL POPULATION: million POPULATION WEIGHTED AVERAGES GDP PER CAPITA (PPP): $18,803 GROWTH: 0.2% 5 YEAR GROWTH: 2.0% INFLATION: 9.1% UNEMPLOYMENT: 10.7% PUBLIC DEBT: 47.1% SOURCE: Terry Miller and Anthony B. Kim, 2017 Index of Economic Freedom (Washington: The Heritage Foundation, 2017), been far from certain. The lives of many ordinary people have yet to change for the better. Of the Arab Spring economies, Tunisia and Egypt have shown the most encouraging results over the past year. However, Bahrain continues to be on a downward path in terms of economic freedom, and grading of economic freedom for Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen remains suspended because of ongoing violence and unrest. Chart 1 shows the distribution of countries in the MENA region within the five categories of economic freedom. The region does not have any economically free countries. The United Arab Emirates and Qatar are the region s two mostly free economies. The majority of the Middle East/North Africa region s 14 economies graded by the Index continue to be rated only moderately free or mostly unfree, with the Algerian economy categorized as repressed. Structural and institutional problems abound throughout the region, and private-sector growth continues to lag far behind levels needed to provide adequate economic opportunities for growing populations. Despite the outflow of crude oil, actual trade flows remain very low, indicating a lack of economic dynamism. Taken as a whole, the MENA region s lack of job opportunities remains a serious problem, particularly for younger members of the labor force whose average unemployment rate is close to 25 percent. The MENA region is the absolute world leader in one notable category: tax policy. (See Table 1.) The region s tax burden score is more than 10 points above the world average, a level reached because of the low income tax rates typical in the oil kingdoms. The region also scores slightly above the world average in such other areas as rule of law and regulatory efficiency, in part reflecting ongoing reform Index of Economic Freedom

3 MIDDLE EAST / NORTH AFRICA Lebanon Kuwait Morocco Tunisia Israel Syria Iraq Iran Algeria Economic Freedom Scores Free Mostly Free Moderately Free Mostly Unfree Repressed Not Graded Libya Egypt Jordan Saudi Arabia Yemen Oman U.A.E. Qatar Bahrain SOURCE: Terry Miller and Anthony B. Kim, 2017 Index of Economic Freedom (Washington: The Heritage Foundation, 2017), efforts that regional leaders are making to cut back on bribery and government malfeasance. Given the extreme oil wealth within the region, which has little to do with economic freedom, it is somewhat surprising that the MENA countries also demonstrate in dramatic fashion the correlation between economic freedom and prosperity. Chart 2 illustrates the positive relationship between high levels of economic freedom and high GDP per capita. The ongoing transformation of innovative states such as the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Israel may yet light the way to broader-based economic growth and political stability regionally. As shown in Chart 3, across the region, higher economic freedom is also strongly correlated with overall human development as measured by the United Nations Human Development Index, which measures life expectancy, literacy, education, and the standard of living. In light of the disappointing impact of the Arab Spring, it is clear that mounting economic problems will not be solved simply by holding elections or allowing greater expressions of dissent. Existing policies and practices continue to restrict economic freedom. Costly energy and food subsidies, which place a considerable burden on budgets and stand in the way of sound sustainable economic development, are still on the rise as many governments in the region continue to rely on lavish spending to quell social and political unrest. NOTABLE COUNTRIES Israel s economy has been on a path of economic expansion. With the productive base increasingly diversified and structural reforms ongoing, steady growth has averaged over 3 percent annually over the past five years. Economic competitiveness has been anchored in strong protection of property rights and facilitated by openness to global trade and investment. Israel has the world s highest concentration of high-technology start-ups per capita. The Heritage Foundation /Index 299

4 MIDDLE EAST/NORTH AFRICA: ECONOMIC FREEDOM SUMMARY MOSTLY UNFREE 4 REPRESSED 1 MODERATELY FREE 7 NOT GRADED 4 TOTAL 18 COUNTRIES MOSTLY FREE 2 SOURCE: Terry Miller and Anthony B. Kim, 2017 Index of Economic Freedom (Washington: The Heritage Foundation, 2017), Chart 1 Morocco continues to make gradual but notable progress in economic liberalization. The country s commitment to economic reform has encouraged the development of a dynamically evolving private sector. Policies that facilitate competitiveness and diversification of the productive base have contributed to economic expansion averaging around 4 percent annually over the past five years. Civil war has left Syria s economy in ruins and precludes assigning the country a rank in the 2017 Index. The devastation and chaos have inflicted a horrific human cost and caused enormous physical damage. Economic policy has focused on protecting the regime and maintaining the military s fighting capacity. With the escalating cost of the war compounded by a collapse in oil prices, the fiscal situation is dire. MIDDLE EAST/NORTH AFRICA: GDP PER CAPITA, BY ECONOMIC FREEDOM CATEGORY FREE MOSTLY FREE MODERATELY FREE MOSTLY UNFREE REPRESSED n/a $100,044 $38,684 $14,719 $14,532 $0 $25000 $50000 $75000 $ SOURCES: Terry Miller and Anthony B. Kim, 2017 Index of Economic Freedom (Washington: The Heritage Foundation, 2017), and International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database, April 2016, (accessed December 13, 2016). Chart Index of Economic Freedom

5 MIDDLE EAST/NORTH AFRICA: COMPONENTS OF ECONOMIC FREEDOM LOWER THAN WORLD AVERAGE HIGHER THAN WORLD AVERAGE AVERAGES Region World OVERALL Property Rights RULE OF LAW Judicial Effectiveness Government Integrity GOVERNMENT SIZE Tax Burden Government Spending Fiscal Health REGULATORY EFFICIENCY Business Freedom Labor Freedom Monetary Freedom MARKET OPENNESS Trade Freedom Investment Freedom Financial Freedom SOURCE: Terry Miller and Anthony B. Kim, 2017 Index of Economic Freedom (Washington: The Heritage Foundation, 2017), Table 1 Economic dynamism is constrained in Tunisia by institutional weaknesses that remain unaddressed, primarily because political instability has hindered decisive government action. The regulatory regime, despite some improvements, remains burdensome and deters entrepreneurial activity. Deeper reforms to enhance governance and strengthen the critical pillars of economic freedom are needed to push the economy along a positive path of transition. Recent years broad-based and dynamic growth in the United Arab Emirates has been underpinned by continuous efforts to strengthen the business climate, boost investment, and foster the emergence of a more vibrant and diverse private sector. The generally liberal trade regime has helped to sustain the momentum for growth. The UAE aims to be a regional financial hub, and its banking sector is resilient. The Heritage Foundation /Index 301

6 MIDDLE EAST/NORTH AFRICA: ECONOMIC FREEDOM AND HUMAN DEVELOPMENT Each circle represents a nation in the Index of Economic Freedom Human Development Index Score Trend Overall Score in the 2017 Index of Economic Freedom SOURCES: Terry Miller and Anthony B. Kim, 2017 Index of Economic Freedom (Washington: The Heritage Foundation, 2017), and U.N. Human Development Programme, International Human Development Indicators, (accessed December 13, 2016). Chart Index of Economic Freedom

7 ECONOMIC FREEDOM IN MIDDLE EAST/NORTH AFRICA World Rank Regional Rank Country Overall Score Change from 2016 Property Rights Judicial Effectiveness Government Integrity Tax Burden Government Spending Fiscal Health Business Freedom Labor Freedom Monetary Freedom Trade Freedom Investment Freedom Financial Freedom 8 1 United Arab Emirates Qatar Israel Bahrain Jordan Kuwait Saudi Arabia Oman Morocco Tunisia Lebanon Egypt Iran Algeria N/A N/A Iraq N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A Libya N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A Syria N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 56.6 N/A N/A N/A N/A Yemen N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A The Heritage Foundation /Index 303

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